Editorial: Shen land advocates need a park plan

The discussion needs to move from the abstract to the concrete
The parcel off Maxwell and Moe roads
The parcel off Maxwell and Moe roads

It’s going to be a lot easier getting people to sign a petition for the purposes of creating a new park in Clifton Park than it will be convincing Shenendehowa school district voters to give up the cash and tax benefits of selling the land to a developer.

So as supporters of a ballot measure continue to push the Shenendehowa school board for a referendum to overturn their plan to sell the land and retain the property, they’re going to have to start making a strong case for how the land will be used and managed and articulate who besides themselves stands to benefit.

Otherwise, all their efforts to date could ultimately end up being for naught.

Given the controversy over the 34-acre parcel off Maxwell and Moe roads, and given the large public support for turning the land into a public green space instead of yet another paved-over business park or housing development, it’s clear the school board needs to put the sale of the parcel up for a public vote.

But it’s no slam dunk that the ballot measure to reverse a previous board vote to sell the land will be approved.

Selling the land to a developer will generate $2 million, which could be used for the future purchase of land for athletic fi elds or property for a new school elsewhere in the district. That’s money the district won’t have to later raise through taxes, an enticing proposition for many district residents.

And the developer has pledged to donate half the land, about 17.5 acres, to the town for green space. Why can’t the town residents be happy with that?

Remember, not everyone in the Shenendehowa school district lives in Clifton Park. Residents in Halfmoon, Waterford, Stillwater, Malta, Round Lake and Ballston will also be participating in this public vote, and they might not care much about giving the residents of richyrich Clifton Park a place to revel in nature.

So supporters of the measure will have to make a strong case for how not selling the land to a developer will benefi t everyone in the district, not just a select few. That means making a pitch to have it used by the entire district.

This property is located right next to school athletic fi elds and the Arongen and Shatekon elementary schools.

Many school districts take advantage of green space around their properties to teach students about nature and environmental protection.

The land could also be used for school sporting activities. In Saratoga Springs, Spa State Park hosts several regional cross-country meets and walk/races. In Glens Falls, the public wooded area there is used for school cross-country running meets and cross-country skiing events, as well as passive public recreation.

The land, they must remind voters, also will be available to the residents of the other towns to use. It’s just off Route 146, and there aren’t many public spaces that large and centrally located within the school district that are available for public hiking, cross-country skiing and relaxing.

Remembering again that this isn’t a vote to create a park, but only to overturn the sale, supporters of green space nonetheless must show they have a corps of volunteers ready and willing to clear trails, build benches and bridges (they make great Eagle Scout projects), and maintain parking areas. And for good measure, they should articulate some fund-raising initiatives to help offset the costs of maintenance of any future park.

Even if the school board puts the referendum on the ballot, there’s no guarantee the sale will be overturned.

Supporters of this measure need to go further than negating the sale and make a strong case for a long-term, better alternative.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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